Ever since the advent of recombinant-DNA technology, scientists have conceived that it will be feasible to create entirely new enzymes for specific needs. In an article in todays issue of the journal Science, researchers from Uppsala and Korea present concrete proof of this. They have succeeded in converting an enzyme involved in normal human metabolism into an enzyme that is custom-designed to break down a specific substance, cefotaxime.
“The product in this case is not the main point, but we have shown that it is possible to totally transform an enzyme for a new and pre-determined activity. We have succeeded by using a rational reconstruction of the enzymes active site in combination with directed molecular evolution in test tubes,” says Professor Bengt Mannervik, at the Department of Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry, who planned the study.
In the cells of all organisms, proteins are involved in molecular functions of highly disparate types: as receptors of light and smells, for transmission of signals, mechanical work, control of the function of genes, and the synthesis and degradation of chemical substances. Despite all of these diverse functions, only an insignificant number of all imaginable protein structures ever come to existence in living cells. With the help of recombinant-DNA technology and chemical modifications scientists around the world are therefore trying to produce entirely new proteins that can be used for biotechnological applications in medicine, the drug industry, forestry and agriculture, and the production of foodstuffs. However, researchers have had to look for proteins at random after reconstructions, like a needle in a haystack.
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Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
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Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
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In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
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By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
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